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An eclectic blog on which appears daily one-thousand word essays on somethingorother.

Updated: 2018-01-19T05:39:15.514-07:00




"The Burghers of Calais" by RodinCinematheque in Paris grew from its base in the art studio loft.  At the core were two Irish boys, one from the Protestant north and one from the Catholic south.  They had bonded to each other, which was not unusual in the group, but their strong commitment was exceptional.  They described it as a “marriage.”  Between the two of them, they shared a position T. always created, somewhere between assistant and vice-president.  This time, aside from doing a lot of the daily work, like filtering the floods of hate mail that still arrived, they managed T. himself and the schedule of travel and performance.  Though they argued with him, they also protected him.There were three levels of activity: pop-up plays performed in the city on flights of stairs or along the Seine or in galleries; sub-group photography trips to Auschwitz or the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or other locations of injustice.  The Bastille, the location of the guillotine beheading of 40,000 in the French Revolution, and Rodin’s bronze statue of “The Burghers of Calais” were all at hand.  The boys took the poses of the Burghers and sent a photo of themselves.The third level was paid gigs to make vids of rock groups or nonconforming artists.  Sometimes T. went to speak or confer with activist groups, especially about HIV-AIDS, taking along a boy to carry the luggage (limited to one bag for each person) and walk the dog.  Navajo, as a helper dog who steadied T. on his new hips, flew in the cabin under T’s seat.  The only problem was that between anxiety and cabin pressure change, the dog emitted stink bombs.T. got a phone call from his daughter who was teaching school in Bolivia.  His small granddaughter was ill and neither the young couple nor the doctors were getting hold of it.  Though a deadly riot was surging in the streets, he was on the next flight to La Paz.  Three boys were suicidal at the time and had to be with T.  Telling them to get their cameras as they were now going to be photojournalists, he just took them along.  In short order he had worked through to a diagnosis of the little girl, treatment was effective, and he found a local indigenous woman to be the child's nursemaid in future, reasoning that she knew better how to manage children in that place better than American young adults could.From their hotel the boys had an excellent overview of the rioting streets.  After watching for a day or so, one of them produced a Harry Potter book.  He had not mastered reading, but asked T. to read it out loud, saying he had brought the book in case he got bored with the riots.The original Cinematheque group now accepted boys assigned from the courts or social workers who didn’t know how to handle profoundly at-risk youngsters, even close to death.  France is an enlightened country in many ways.  The age of adulthood is younger in Europe and some legal cases could be resolved by a few years of growing up, until reaching emancipation.  Those sent to the group did not run away as they did in confinement-based institutions.Another category was the sons of extremely wealthy people, boys who had no mothers so were raised by servants until they became unmanageably defiant.  Those fathers were prepared to subsidize the group as a whole.  In fact, a group of “trust fund babies” had collaborated to create a philanthropic body and they also contributed.  Groups like this who have money are invested in secrecy or they would be besieged by needy people and con men.  Of course, it would not help a respectable businessman to have publicity about his son, especially if it lent itself to sensational exaggerations.  It might even invite kidnapping.  Therefore, an aspect of Cinematheque had to be absolute discretion, which I am breaking by writing this.  (Of course, I know little and could prove nothing.  I had reports as things happened.)The group had ev[...]



Nelson, BC ~ Feb 22. More details to come.BLACKFEET/BLACKFOOT PHOTOS ARE INCLUDED. MCCLINTOCK, BOTH MAGEES, AND OTHERS. Some are very familiar because of being in books or simply reproduced a lot. Others have hardly been seen before.This project includes discovering the names of the people photographed, so if you have access, even online, and recognize individuals, let Paul know. He's been on Twitter all along.[...]



Facebook impacted the group in two ways.  First of all, T. was using Facebook as the platform for storing videos.  It was convenient and things were moving fast, so no care was taken for backups.  Then suddenly on November 13, 2010, Facebook dropped the account.  No reason was given.  Months of work were erased.  Uproar from supporters ensued but there was only silence.  In a few years someone suggested it was because we were using the word “vlog” (conflating video with log or blog) but there was some commercial enterprise that wanted to copyright the term and paid to have Facebook recognize that.The other incident was more social.  An international group of poets had formed on Facebook.  As happens, a split developed between those New Age/Mommie cultures who wanted poetry to be nothing but upliftingly beautiful versus a poéte maudit school of thought that wanted powerful language to express darkness and despair in a hostile society.  I don’t know how it resolved because by that time I had left Facebook forever.  But some of those poets continued to stay in touch.Among them was Rachel Chappelle, a social anthropologist, who began to fund an independent provider based in India.  She was an invaluable definer and enabler of the work.  Called “Real Stories Gallery Foundation”, the website was blunt and forceful, but endorsed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, Nobel Peace Prize Winner,1984)  T. is listed as the Creative Director of the website.  It is a website suitable for boys at risk seeking expression and for those who work with such boys.  Others will be shocked.  The work by the boys reflects their lives.  Part of it is a program called "Show Me Your Life," which sends small video cameras to boys everywhere in the world.  The results are edited into vids on the site.  One boy in Africa filmed from a hiding place on a roof, documenting violent attacks on women.  His assigned peer-mentor worried and with good reason.  The daring boy met death by machete.  Cinematheque was shaken.In our Western culture much that is painful, disruptive, and hard to address is simply made “off-limits.”  That is, censored and voluntarily sheered away from by “nice people,” who just don't want to know about it.  The result is that such matters are demonized and exaggerated, which is very convenient for abusers and pimps, since there is always a contingent that wants to know danger, wants to experiment, and is willing to pay for access.A third internet phenomenon was the powerfully popular Wikipedia, developed on the idea that people who cared about a subject would monitor and improve information about that subject, resulting in something more accurate than if an individual person edited.  This theory failed to allow for controversial personalities and vendettas.  T., like others, found that information was being controlled to portray him in the worst possible light, leaving out everything positive and even using his pseudonym as the index rather than his real name, perpetuating the hoax rather than resolving it.Several of us challenged this in the way Wikipedia is supposed to be corrected, but found our comments were removed again.  I went a little deeper and discovered that Wikipedia DID have editors, but they were cloaked.  This editor had a pseudonym of his own:  “VizJim.”  I finally figured out that he was James Mackey, a Cyprus writer who was a fan of Gerald Vizenor, a noted Native American writer and professor.  By chance I knew VizJim from “Reznet” an early “bulletin board” that at the time was obsessed by the issue of blood quantum and tribal enrollment as entitlement for writing about Native Americans.  (Truth disclosure: I got access to the bulletin board by passively pretending to be Blackfeet by saying I was from Browning, which I was.)  VizJim, when I looke[...]



America is now a country where the President mocks the differently abled and few can tolerate the differently cultured.  The fears of some are fed by knowledge that various categories of people are being gathered into camps and then deported, or simply left there, like leper colonies.  This is no way to handle a pandemic and I don’t know that any other countries are doing it except in the “hell holes” created by war.Some who are alert and have been following this blog lately have realized that I’m posting in bits a rough draft of the biography of Tim Barrus.  I don’t know where he is or whether he’s safe or even alive.  I haven’t heard from him for over a year.  The boys in his care are scattered to safe houses, if there is such a thing now.  They are doing workshops about survival for homeless youngsters, including those who resort to sexwork so need info about prevention and monitoring of HIV.  They still manage to post.  They still have their cameras.I’m getting close to eighty.  If I don’t get this written now, it won’t ever happen.  Publishing?  I have no idea.  There are many forms.  But I joined this effort about 2006 and was co-writing blog entries for years.  T’s way was to choose a theme, name it evocatively, and then make entries that alternated with mine.  Sometimes he used a pseudonym and sometimes he did not.  At first I only used my own first name, Mary, which confused things because it’s an appellation used by gays, something like “Nancy.”  But I’m not gay.  T. called me "the writer Mary Scriver."Since the boys were sexworkers — as T. had been which was one reason they trusted him — I had to do a lot of catching up by reading out here on the Montana prairie where no one gets AIDS and all athletes are above average.  Thank goodness for the used book market:  Abebooks, Alibris, Powells, and so on.  Gay culture is complex, international, and highly political.  T. suggested what to read and a surprising amount of it was online. Reservations (I do not mean Native Americans but rather tribal areas) are full of stories and at first that’s what I wrote, as well as stories from my five years in Portland, Oregon, as the first female animal control officer, and more from my ten years as a Unitarian Universalist minister.  Neither tribal people on reservations nor in urban re-locations were writing as much as the international gay community, but the two affinity groups had overlap and links, partly through the Internet. Gays read a lot and tend to be able to afford books and magazines.  Gay “Indians” tended to be bookworms.When I started, I was already writing stories for but sometimes I could use “boy stories” like T’s template in both locations.  Then I wrote a short story about a mail order wife who could barely tolerate her homesteader husband’s advances until there was a terrible blizzard while he was gone.  Aware that he might not come back at all and was certainly unlikely to return until the storm was over, she dragged the tin tub in front of the fire and bathed with the last sliver of real soap she had.  But the husband, concerned about leaving his new wife alone, had struggled home at the cost of killing his horse, and staggered in the door with his saddle on his shoulders.  “That was the night they started their family.”  The story was rejected by "Rope and Wire" for being too sexy for a “family-oriented” website.  I don’t know where they got their information about how families begin.  I was now writing for my own blog “" and for whatever blog T. had going.  This latter pushed me to be far more daring, with no limits on human behavior, though I was hopeless when it came to drugs.  There is an intriguing phenomenon that I hope to investigate some day:  les[...]



(PARTLY AN EDITED  REPOST FROM 1-16-18)A publisher/scout who specialized in controversy and racial provocation; who had engaged Alice Randall, the revisionist African-American author of “The Wind Done Gone”, and been hauled into court over it; who was the agent of Sherman Alexie, spotted the Barrus short story in Esquire and believed it could be expanded into a book.  What this developer didn’t know was that Barrus was white, flat on his back in a Florida hospital, barely alive and facing a lifetime of racking pain from avascular necrosis (bone death) triggered by the meds necessary to keep him breathing during a bout of pneumonia that would recur again and again because that’s one consequence of HIV.  Barrus needed a double hip replacement and this developing publisher offered enough money — in those days as an advance — to pay for them.  Otherwise, he would be in a wheelchair.Newly realizing what HIV meant in those days, not quite past the holocaust stage, he was in a special program for HIV patients in North Carolina when this publisher caught up with him.  He was in no shape to be writing a book.  Luckily, Barrus has always written and written, sending out stories as every free-lancer does, using pseudonyms as writers have always done.  He had a trunk full of stories.  “The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams” is a collection from the trunk.  One story specifically written for the editor was an attack on his father, who had abused him nearly to the point of death throughout his childhood.  It was an exaggeration of true things, which the editor pushed hard to make more vivid — this was his editing philosophy: extreme sells.  Many essays were from Barrus’ life on the Navajo rez while his wife taught there, but he didn’t pretend to be Navajo except for using the name Nasdijj, which he had used before, several times.  He just phrased things in a way that let the reader assume.  The editor, evidently not registering the HIV clinic or the clearly Scots/Irish appearance of Barrus, took the manuscript to Sherman Alexie, hoping for a blurb praising it.  Sherman told the editor the author was not NA and recommended it not be published.  He had not yet claimed that it was plagiarized, an idea that was debunked by a special panel convened by Poets and Writers after comparing works.“The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping” really was an expansion of the short story.  Journalists intent on exposing the “truth” went searching for the real “Tommy Nothing Fancy” but only found one of them.  There were several individual boys but usually there was a group of boys whom he taught to help each other, among other survival skills.  Barrus’ most propelling inner truth was the abuse from his father, whom he loved and admired for his vitality in spite of everything.  In this sequence of boys he loved (not sexually) and tried to save from death, he was trying to show his father what a father ought to be like.  Former English teacher that I am, I ransacked the used book online stores for Barrus books and read them all, even “Mineshaft.”  (Eeeuuugggh.)  Then I read Jack Fritscher’s books, for whom Barrus had edited Drummer, a magazine celebration of men that Barrus called “Leather Lit,” meant to break up the stereotype of Nancy-boys, limp-wristed and effete.  Motorcycles were at the heart of Leather Lit, one step away from Hell’s Angels.  Barrus edited “Some Dance to Remember”, a novel by Fritscher and was much influenced by Fritscher’s academic and religious background. Geoff Mains, who had a doctoral degree in biochemistry, was the most eloquent spokesperson for this concept.  I’ve gone back to“Urban Aboriginals” repeatedly when thinking about addiction, serotonin, and the mixture of pain and pleasure.  While the editor at Knights Press, B[...]



by J.C. LeyendeckerThe Nineties went from joy to dire life-cursing disaster.  The peak came when T. sent in a poem to a competition for lesbian poetry as a joke.  The prize was a chance to crew on a tall ship whose crew was entirely lesbians.  T. won!  When he came to collect his prize, the women were startled, but then laughed and came through with their promise.  Those days high in the rigging of one of the most fabulous world-knitting human technologies, tall ships, sailing in glory under a tropical sky and then sharing the evenings with song, story, and friendship, were among the best of T.’s life.  Exalted is not too strong a word.“In October 1998, one of the most savage storms in Atlantic history cornered a 282-foot passenger sailing ship against an exposed Caribbean coastline. With nowhere to hide and no time to run, Fantome turned to face Hurricane Mitch's assault of 180 mile-per-hour winds and 50-foot seas. As the eye of the storm approached, Fantome's satellite phone went dead. The ship and its 31 crew members simply disappeared, leaving only questions that won't go away.”Now T. was stalked by hurricanes.  His beloved friends had died.  He was devastated, haunted, once-again feeling unreasonably that he ought to have been there to somehow save them or at least share their death.Back in San Francisco AIDS had become, as one reporter put it, “a cauldron of death.”  In the course of his UN work, T. had taken his camera to Africa where the pandemic was even worse because of lack of meds and modern hospitals.  He helped to dig graves, row on row.  One of his most moving accounts was simply at dusk washing up alongside a volunteer nurse from the States, chatting quietly as she scrubbed her strong graceful arms.  In the end Africa overwhelmed him.  He vowed never to return. On June 19, 1993 he married his new partner, Tina, with his nearly-grown daughter as attendant.  They left for Taos where they taught in public schools.  Then Mariano Lake school, a small remote institution between the Navajo and the Zuni lands.  Exploring one day, they found Navajo, the badly injured little puppy, whose name became a great source of hilarity to the local kids.  These years were the source of the many real stories in “Blood Runs Like a River Through my Dreams.”  Sometimes T. took Old Big Wanda, an F150 Ford pickup, to a campground where he could sit at a picnic table and write without distractions.  Navajo came along and at night, sleeping in the back of the pickup under the metal canopy, they listened to the coyotes howl nearby.  In a few years they returned to Florida.The next fateful hurricane was named Georges and struck Key West in Florida in 1998.  At this time he and Tina were in a more conventional house than the tree-house where T. had lived earlier, the one with screens instead of windows and a giant iguana living at the base.  This second house, more proper, was damaged by the storm.  Working to clear up and repair the debris, T. inhaled mold and developed severe pneumonia.  Fungal pneumonia is difficult to treat because fungi cells are so similar to body cells.  He was saved only by heavy doses of prednisone.  When he finally recovered consciousness enough to push away the breathing apparatus, a face leaned over him and said,  “You have HIV.  You are lucky to be alive.”  From then on he was always vulnerable to recurrent bouts of pneumonia, one of the most common side-effects of HIV infection.  But arguably worse was developing avascular necrosis which prednisone triggers in some HIV patients.  No one understands it very well, but it means death of the bones due to lack of blood supply.  Bones are much more than the body’s scaffolding; the marrow is an active organ that produces the red and white ce[...]



How to create a mysterious crop circleSince I have a fifty year history with the Blackfeet, thirty years on or next to the rez and the other twenty in touch via media, I watch their doin’s with close attention.  Our lives are meshed in subtle ways.  Two political issues have been of interest. One is how the politics of African-Americans so dominate and define what race means and how it should be included in public life.  This tends to push aside, if not crush, the issues of tribal people.  The other is the ferocious emotion aroused — even on the part of white people — by the bogus literary category of “hoax” ginned up by yet another writer, sometimes a journalist and others an academic, but mostly a mix of the two.   Often about Native Americans and entitlement to that identity. The idea of a hoax seems to offend “gentle readers”, often women and youngsters, much more than it riles more broadly educated and experienced people.  Misleading author attributions have been common as long as there has been writing.  Sometimes they were purported to be “found” letters or journals to add credibility to stories of castaways or brothel adventures.  Once in a while they were meant to tease the reader, like “Naked Came the Stranger” in which each chapter was written by a different author or “The Painted Bird” which was simply a retyping of an award-winning book meant to reveal that the prizes were rigged.There seems to be a relationship to anthropology when accounts sounded unlikely to conventional English-speaking middle-class readers — which aroused curiosity and incredulity at once — things like Margaret Mead’s account of teenaged female sexuality in Samoa.  Later scientists would revisit the place and make a reputation out of debunking Mead, who had been so honored that some proposed we should all act like South Sea Islanders.  Eventually writers found the internal worlds that always coexist alongside or under the commonplace: criminals, cloistered religious, immigrant communities, and “Indians.”  Stigmatized or privileged.  Books that purported to reveal the “truth” sold well, but then were “re-revealed” to be wrong or fantasized.  Then the idea became that only the people from inside those separate groups should be allowed to write about them.  They were the only true “knowers” and interpreters.  And it was satisfying to think that former slaves and “medicine men” were now converted to a proper life — Christian, of course.  Members of stigmatized groups now restored to respectability via confession and Oprah.A freak show element — like the story of Chang and Eng, the conjoined men, or the secret diaries of Hitler or Howard Hughes — was always popular.  Some people are so freaky that just a straight account of their lives can keep us breathless.  “Fire and Fury” comes to mind.  Publishers, whose business is profit, love best-sellers like this.  Now that computerized data can reveal so much, we are fascinated to read the “truth” about how many people consume online porn, what categories sell best, and that there are perversions we never heard of before.  Recently, the trend is to private civilians making home-porn vids, so profits are damaged by this “reality”.In fact, we are no longer so incredulous about other countries or our neighbors, but rather challenged to develop our own identities, which triggers what scholars call “collective narcissism,” the celebration of origins or communities as defining worthiness.  This can be healthy pride and participation, but it can also turn toxic to be an excuse for persecution of others or to cover for individual failure to thrive economically or psychologically.  When conditions hurt people, they resort to their religion or et[...]



Golec deSavala and her team“Narcissism,” a contemporary pejorative often aimed at the entitled, started out as a little cautionary tale about vanity, a Greek/Roman myth.  A remarkably pretty boy admires himself in his reflected image on the surface of a still pond until he turns into a hyacinth flower with petals imitating his curly hair.  Along came Freud with his penchant for giving psychological syndromes names derived from myths and he uses it to designate someone so wrapped up in themselves and their own wonderfulness that they have no care for anyone else and might do damage to them.  This is the sense the conversation has used in reference to Trump.Often the concept is used for artists, esp. men, who abuse the women in their lives in order to use the female energy and support for their art.  If the men are recognized as geniuses, the gender role (not the sexuality) of women can justify this, as in the word “helpmate.”  Think of Picasso.  This pattern of a dominant male with a subordinate female, may have roots in the agricultural division of labor in a patriarchal time when the man owns the land AND the woman, plus the children.  Think of Jane Austen novels. Men who didn’t justify the pattern with their productions begin to run into resistance and resentment.Sam Vaknin is a pioneer in thinking about narcissism.  Diagnosed as a narcissist himself, he is easiest to catch up with on YouTube in short vids about various aspects, because by now he has defined many “kinds” of narcissism in his pedantic careful way.  Most dangerous is “malignant narcissism” which is predatory and consciously destructive.  One might put sexual abusers in this category, whether they abuse women, children or other men.  But it might also refer to money or power.  “Grandiose narcissism” comes from the conviction that one is simply more powerful, more effective and entitled than anyone else, and it can destroy the narcissist with overreach and retaliation from others who can defend themselves.Now comes an idea from Agnieszka Golec de Zavala through a recent article published by, an online magazine meant for thoughtful people.  She is a senior lecturer in psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Poznan, Poland.  She suggests “collective narcissists” who so identify with some category, perhaps ethnic or vocational or religious, that they cannot tolerate any criticism of the group.  “As opposed to individuals with narcissistic personality, who maintain inflated views of themselves, collective narcissists exaggerate offences to their group’s image and respond to them aggressively. . . .  They feel that their group merits special treatment, and insist that it gets the recognition and respect it deserves. . .  it amounts to a belief in the exaggerated greatness of one’s group, and demands external validation.”The next step is that when scientists at the University of Pennsylvania scanned narcissists’ brains with fMRI, they found that social rejection was particularly hard for them, and then subsequent research discovered that “people derive emotional pleasure from responding to rejection with aggression”.  Golec de Zavala and her team are now looking at whether this works as strongly between groups who threaten each other as between individuals.  They’re trying to go from bar-fights over who’s more Irish to riots of disenfranchised young white men waving tiki torches, so as to possibly find other ways to handle what can amount to an addiction to violence.  Sometimes this rises to an international level.Saying Trump is a narcissist, which is an obvious limitation of his character when looking at his treatment of women, or even saying he is a [...]



In 1977 T.’s paternal grandfather had died, the adopted boy was surrendered back to institutional care, and the marriage was ended, with T. taking custody of the daughter.  His wife found a place in Taos.  This was how things stood when he took the UN job in San Francisco.  There were happy days staging little-girl birthday parties at the same time as exploring gay sexual behavior and peacefully watching sunsets from the roof of the building. The Eighties were packed with public events both outrageous and hopeful.  The space shuttle blew up but the Prince of Wales married.  The Berlin wall came down and Communist countries began to modernize but the use of chemical weapons against internal resented populations re-emerged and re-lit old wars in the Middle East.When his daughter was in a residential high school, T. shuttled among New York City, Key West, and San Francisco.  His partner was a responsible and caring man called Alonzo.  When he took A. back on a swing to Michigan, his dying paternal grandmother smiled at the gentle partner with acceptance.  Even his homophobic father made no comment and accepted the two younger men’s help on his fishing boat, which was becoming almost too much for him to handle.  At that point the salmon were dwindling, which the old man blamed on the “Indians.”  The truth was more environmental.By 1984 the partners were living in Key West where there was an active gay community.  T. had been writing all along and now had a series of stories in “The Weekly News,” the local gay newspaper.  He sent articles to dog fancy magazines, to parenting magazines, and — inevitably — to the men’s magazines, some of them explicitly porn and/or gay-centric.  He was less interested in clothes and gear.  His choice of venue had more to do with their payment policies than their subject matter.  A surprising number of magazines did not pay up front or at all.  Porn tended to pay on acceptance.  They needed to keep new content coming fast.As always, he could find jobs with handicapped children's programs and even teaching Head Start teacher workshops.  By this time he had had much training, including how to handle big aggressive boys.  Very few men would take such jobs, esp. since the more profoundly afflicted were in diapers though adolescence and into adulthood.For a while he worked in Manhattan as a bicycle messenger and got manuscripts to editors by going up the back stairs.  He was in excellent physical shape, as always, and a little older than the other messengers.  It was a time when outrageous, taboo-breaking things happened and then became accepted and even usual.  An example might be “Mineshaft”, a membership club for a certain kind of men with “kink”, where sex based on domination mixed with defiance of every rule of sanitation.  Like many of these associations, it was full of rules and signals, a thick culture to enjoy learning about in order to establish hierarchy within a closed community.  The Health Department finally closed it down.  T. wrote about it.In these years he wrote what might be his best books.  “My Brother, My Lover” is located in San Francisco.  A sensational cover emphasized incest and a Russian knock-off publisher used that with a rewritten text to sell a ringer.  But the actual T.-written story was heart-breaking.  An inexperienced gay man has an intense affair but is abandoned by his lover.  Much of the metaphorical text comes from the gay use of “The Wizard of Oz” to signify such things as a happy promised green land with companions, somewhere over the rainbow, as opposed to “Kansas”, flat and arid normality in Middle America.  This may be the only book of his with[...]

"WHERE I LIVE NOW" By Sharon Butala A review.


Sharon Butala’s new book, “Where I Live Now: A Journey Through Love and Loss to Healing and Hope”, can be seen as a continuation of her two-nation best seller, “The Perfection of the Morning.”  When she married her distant cousin, Peter Butala, both of them mid-life, and moved to a place remote even for Saskatchewan, she knew it would be a challenge.  At that point she was an urban academic, a feminist, living in Saskatoon, but under that was her early life in the far north, pioneering in a log cabin with sisters and parents, enjoying freedom without knowing it could be lost, even as they gradually moved from one settlement to the next, always south towards Saskatoon.Peter, on his side, had realized early that men who married young would be pressed hard by the costs of raising children, and never really accumulate the wherewithal (both land and capital, which are nearly interchangeable) to be self-sufficient on the prairie.  But now he was well-situated and would like to share.  Big, steady, stoic Slovak that he was — a type that does well in his situation — he turned to his more Irish relative — tiny, self-protective, accomplished Sharon.  At first she was his sidekick.  Then because of being with Peter she began to write.Ranchers love to explain and teach by example, enjoying the persuasion of getting people to do things their way.  Under Peter’s protection, Sharon blossomed and slowly let down her guard to the land and animals around her.  She had thought she would paint, but found that the place was as moving and evanescent as aurora borealis, something to enter as a poetic mysticism which Peter could do without words. The writing grew and gradually took over her life, though family and the neighbors were skeptical.  In this book Sharon doesn’t mention Wallace Stegner, who grew up in the nearest town, Eastend, and whose boyhood home she and Peter saved so it could become a writers’ retreat.  But this new book is a explanation of a remark Stegner made:  “Out here you don’t have to get down on your knees to pray, because you are already humble enough standing up.”  (Not his exact words.)In the jargon of our times, Sharon’s book is about being “woke” on the prairie, “schooled” in its lessons, the main one being that nothing is permanent, but paradoxically nothing is ever really gone either.  The ranch was on land spared by the great scraping glaciers that ground down that land, then melted back, leaving “The Old Man on his Back” plateau with its original vegetation.  Casual tourists rarely reach this level of understanding, content to leave the middle of the continent as blank “fly-over” country, never speculating about who would live there or why.Peter felt but accepted what amounted to a gradual semi-separation of work that did not end their more than thirty years of marriage.  It brought them to unanimity about the Butala ranch so that it could become a reserve of virgin grass to support native bison with the help of Nature Conservancy Canada.  Always protective of everything from a hurt kitten to miles of land with herds of Herefords, Peter was very much fulfilled by this preservation.Towards the end of life Peter and Sharon went to his father’s village, Kosice, Slovakia, and she saw how deeply that ancient anchor of place was still embedded in her New World husband.  The crux of this book is that after thirty-one years of marriage, it was Peter who proved to be the vulnerable one and Sharon who had to summon up the strength for helping him die, always wondering whether she were doing enough, doing the right thing, while he changed before her eyes.  The dark side of the enormous distances of the prairie is that medical help is never n[...]



Rewind to that hippie wedding in June at the bride’s hometown.  All is hopeful and bright, if a little unreal, but that’s the nature of weddings of all kinds. The groom is working with a very large, very black, rather controversial academic sociologist, doing studies meant to address dysfunctional families.  The researchers actually live with the families for a short term to observe their dynamics.  Also the groom is on the board of an organization meant to help people with mental issues and urges the development of ways to let the people govern themselves.  And he’s on the board of the County Office for Young Children.The events of the Seventies are so abrupt and emotional that it’s hard to keep a sequence straight.  The paternal grandparents go to Florida and the young couple follows.  Toby begins classes at a community college.  His most beloved free-spirit aunt is found drowned and he can hardly bear it, holding himself responsible for not saving her and yet refusing to attend the funeral or otherwise be reconciled.  The next year the couple returns to Michigan for the birth of a daughter, then come back to Florida for the adoption of a little boy the new mother knew from working at a school for special needs children.This child became the focus of a literary scandal.  Toby was overjoyed to have a son in a family that hewed to the Old World theories of patriarchy.  A photo labeled “the men of the family” showed paternal grandfather, father, Toby, and the adopted boy.  He had been a foundling with much damage that could be attributed to fetal alcohol abuse, gestational problems, and other syndromes that produced problems, but he was beautiful.  Actually, he looked like his new father had in childhood.  He was old enough to go fishing.The internal damage, which Toby had so believed he could somehow cure with loving attention, careful guidance, and maybe medication, turned out to be entirely inadequate.  The boy had emotional melt-downs, smeared feces, became violent, could not be trusted near the baby.  He had to be returned to the institution.  They had not been told that he had previously been adopted by a family with the same results.  He spent the rest of his life institutionalized.  Once again Toby was unable to intervene, but he could not walk off, either, and would return to visit the boy.  They had bonded and the boy was always joyful to see him, but eventually the caretakers thought it was too hard to settle him again and asked that Toby not visit.  After that, he observed from a distance as the boy became a man, at least physically.Either because of this emotional trial or possibly in postpartum depression, the young mother sank into trouble.  Toby couldn’t comfort her or find the right help.  A female friend who lived in Taos suggested they come be with her and they did.  After that the wife claimed Taos as her hometown, but there was a divorce and Toby was awarded custody of the small daughter.It was the International Year of the Child.  He had secured a grant for a United Nations program focused on art about children.  The project was located in San Francisco.  He painted a huge mural on the outside of the building that may still be there.  By now he had become a gifted photographer and lived with another photographer who loved to take pictures of the daughter.  On the one hand, with the help of a housekeeper, the household could not have been more typical.  Toby and his daughter sometimes ate at the Glide Methodist Church, a counterculture force for good, and they loved Cecil Williams, the visionary pastor.But there was another aspect.  The explosive new culture of gay m[...]



Let’s start calling this young man “Toby,” as in “Tobe or Not Tobe.”The continuing counterpoint to hospitals in this story is hotels — from top-of-the-line luxury establishments in major cities to sordid small motels that were stranded when the new highways by-passed their town and coped by "charging by the hour".  As the boy began to mature, he found work in the major hotel closest to the state capitol building.  The tasks mostly had to do with serving powerful men, from making sure their shoes were polished to hooking them up with their restorative and compensatorry vices: rich food, booze, drugs, and sex.  Maybe gambling.  Certainly gossip.  His view of the world became much bigger and far more cynical.Abused youths develop parabolic dish antennae for “reading” people, esp. those with power or who might otherwise be a threat, like special knowledge or control of resources.  An hotel is an excellent place to develop and profit by this skill.  A clever boy willing to do sexwork would do even better.The social layering of an urban hotel was architectural: basement or rear where the darker low-class people did laundry and cooking; front-of-the-house bar and restaurant with attractive people serving; a big conference area and/or ballroom for events; and the actual bedrooms with penthouse on top, possibly a bridal suite, and variously elegant hotel rooms.  The front desk, the interface with the public, hired staff with both style and charm, a diplomatic role.Provisioning such a place required logistics and negotiating for bargains and delivery.  Reservations and room assignments also demanded a feeling for order and fittingness.  Toby’s mind had a bent for systems and work-arounds.  He knew people and how to persuade them.  The potential for gaming was high.Years of crowding into a back booth at the Pancake House with his group of high school outcasts and oddballs, building castles in the air of what might be, fomenting strategies of defiance, arguing big theories of what life is all about, had prepared Toby for drinking in a dark upscale bar where deals were made, personalities sussed out, and connections with government opportunity were defined and explained.All this was useful preparation for later when negotiating the labyrinth of AIDS activism.  But there was also a time of beach resorts where the climate was agreeably warm and sunny.  For a while gay men enjoyed an airplane-based society that moved them through such resorts, both as employees and as clients.  They enjoyed interacting with local brown people, understood how to handle folks who had enough money to just indulge themselves, and the beautiful men needed little more wardrobe than Speedos.  Swimming was advertising.  This was probably what caused an airline attendant to be blamed for the first AIDS cases in the US, though by now the first HIV carriers have been retroactively identified as decades earlier.For Toby the beaches were places to swim, sun, and fish.  He was not attracted to the big tourist cruise ships nor did he envy yachts.  They were both places where one was trapped.  His style was small sailing boats, freedom.  He even built one.  In the Mediterranean he harked back to his old classic Western civ classes in the advanced high school program so the Greek ruins and mythology came alive.  Being there was more than hedonism, also the pleasure of old stories and evocative fragments.  “Western culture” if you like.  The aesthetic gay community supported this.  The friends he made were not ignoramuses.When the Cinematheque group began, it was not exactly in a hotel, but they called it in code “L'Hotel Su[...]



The boy was in high school.  It was the mid-Sixties and the world had gone crazy.  Assasinations.  Sexual revolution.  Riots.  A good friend hung himself.  The boy had moved down to the basement to escape all the lecturing women and so his Chippewa boyfriend could slip in to spend the night.  Something pushed him over the edge.With his dead grandfather’s shotgun he blew his guts out, literally.  The noise was louder than he had expected.  He remembers his body reacting, compelling survival, trying to push his intestines back in, trying to crawl up the stairs.  Someone was coming — he hadn’t thought there was anyone home.  His mother went in the ambulance with him.But she wasn’t the one who spent the night in a chair in the corner of the hospital room, always there when he roused a little bit.The day before, he had gone to a nearby university campus counselling center for help, but after a long talk the young female chaplain had been unable to grasp the problem.  He told her it was that his father was repeatedly acting out by taking a bottle of whisky and a loose woman to a motel and he wanted to know how to make him stop.  Decades later, when she was a famous counselor and wrote a book, she described his visit.  She said he had his motorcycle helmet under his arm and was thin for a football player.  The suicide attempt shook her to the core.  She was inexperienced, and was shocked by the reaction of his parents, who were not prayerful but instead intensely angry.    In the book he was disguised and only people who knew him pretty well would recognize him.  It was she who sat in the corner all night.While the boy had been in surgery, balancing on the lip of the swallowing maw of death, she had sat with the parents to wait, expecting to pray but horrified by their reaction.  The father simply sat and stared.  The mother spilled out a long list of the boy’s wrongdoings, how much trouble he had always been.  The counsellor said, “I was unaware then of the normality of such feelings of fury.”  Afterwards she returned to visit with him constantly, trying to make up for not preventing the damage.  The young surgeon who had taken him on as a challenge had succeeded in saving him.  But the boy did not stay in touch with the surgeon.  In fact, in the subsequent years the boy stayed so close to the counsellor, that he even lived with her for some periods,  She was married to an older professor and had no children.  After a later divorce she adopted daughters.In the past, coming to this hospital as a child with his many injuries, the boy had sometimes bolted from the wards, going across the street to a park where there were kids’ swings where he could sit alone until someone came for him or he needed to get warm again.  The image of empty childs' swings persisted through his life work in photography.  This time he was too badly hurt to go to the park.  Hospitals were both his salvation and his prison, and it would be like that all his life.But things were very much reframed.  He had had a colostomy (later repaired); fistulas had formed that sometimes broke open, releasing embarrassing muck.  Many of the shot pellets remained, wandering, making trouble the rest of his life, preventing MRI examinations because the machines are magnetic and would tear the metal through flesh.  Once home, his father changed his dressings and taught him to use a baby’s disposable diaper to wind around his belly so it would catch leaks.  He did go back to school, but on his own terms and no one interfered.  They gave him his[...]



This is the on-going story of an abused boy, just one individual who made his unique way, surviving however he could -- inimitably -- but he represents large social movements and changing cultures that many boys did not survive.A biography of this boy has to be based on men, esp. fathers, but though the power of the fathers is obvious, it is the subversive and sometimes equal power of women that may be more meaningful, even salvific.  It is the women who carry the culture and boys are shaped by their culture despite fathers who may try to oppose it because it means change.  When women side with the fathers against their sons, the results are tragic.Even before the leap from country to city, the world of this boy was framed by aunts and other boys.  The aunts must have known to some extent what was going on.  None dared intervene against the abuse.  The other boys became the real family though only some were cousins and others were neighbors.  They formed small conspiracies.  As boys do, they paired off like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn or “Penrod and Sam” or “Two Little Savages.”Two aunts were on the father’s genetic side.  One was a menopause baby, only three years older than the boy. This aunt lived with the family in the university town because she was going to college there.  Acting as a kind of older daughter, she was oblivious of dynamics and critical of the boy. Deploying the usual defenses of the previous generations — denial and not-knowing, she was quite proud of the family history, which included inventors and professionals, as was her mother, but there were elements of darkness that encouraged omissions.  The other aunt was an Auntie Mame who swept up the boy in a swirl of emotion, nearly smothering him in over-intense bonding.  Her son, the same age as the boy, was in the same style.  They embraced each other.The two aunts on the mother’s side were educated and moved in more sophisticated circles.  These women stayed in touch with their mother’s birth family.  The great aunt and her husband ran a local repertory theatre.  Each of these women would occasionally ‘kidnap’ the boy and take him out of range of abuse.  One was an English teacher who took the boy into bookstores that his mother claimed were evil and the other had married a nuclear scientist which meant access to galaxies of ideas.  The boy's father was close to this man, admiring the connection to science and atomic power.  No one ever went to authorities about abuse of the boy.  A police officer lived within hearing distance of the beatings but did nothing about it.  Children were owned, families were private, consequences of intervention would be major.  This father was formidable.But even in the city there were safe spaces.  One was a reserve or park not far from the house that had a little blind, a hut with a view window.  It became a boy club, a hideaway of total intimate safety.   The boy’s closest bond was with a Chippewa his age and they met there.  In that protected area there was other evidence of native inhabitants in the form of early kinds of corn and squash that had naturalized, gone feral, because they were hardy and not dependent on cultivation. Among the other bourgeois ideas the aunts held, was the American fantasy about the specialness of writers and the belief that a person with “talent” could become rich and famous by exertions the uninitiated can’t quite understand but see depicted in movies again and again.  “The Great American Novel!”  Published!  The names of the day were Hemingway and [...]



Country life, even now but a lot more then, unfolds from a combination of sex and class, matters of economics determining who should marry and who will run away.  In this small knot of farms along the Grand River, the earliest settlers — who had an English name — built a big house, a sort of manor house, and though it burned, the estate eventually became a country club.  The sons followed the English pattern of entitlement and tended to dominate women and lesser folks. who were not groomed to inherit anything.  Across the road were two continguous farms.  These were cropland — fields, gardens and some pasture, but were not used to support domestic animals much more than a milk cow or a couple of horses.  These were not animal people so much as growers, more machine dependent.  The land had always been fertile, and plowing there brought up many pink quartz knapped-edge hand tools, so that the plower came home with pockets full of them.  Not that many people were deeply interested, just noting that it was once “Indian” land and understanding that their greater power was based on forged steel plows and harrows.A daughter of this “manor house” family married across the road to the more northern farm run by a hard-driving Hollander who wore wooden shoes, kept order, and also put in full-shift work at the auto plant in the nearby city.  He was a hunter, who went with his brothers-in-law, father and neighbor men, tramping out along the river early in the day and returning with deer or birds to hang in the farm slaughterhouse.  The men valued and maintained their long guns.  The woman of the house processed the meat as it hung from hooks in the ceiling.At the more southern farm the patriarch was a fisherman, who brought home his catch with less rigid organization and system.  Fishing means observing and adapting.  Later his automotive job went well enough for him to buy an airplane and build a landing strip.  He had been places and done things before settling here, and kept his itchy feet.  He married a high-headed woman, the only daughter of a professional man, and maybe some of his style came from her or even to evade her without quarreling.The older son of the fisherman found he had an affinity for the hunter patriarch and formed a close bond with him, pulling away from his blood father.  He was invested in strength and control, and the women saw the economic value in this so supported him in his domination of his children.The fisherman patriarch flew, taking with him his high-life-wife to the California coast where he established a luxury car dealership with his knowledge of their construction and maintenance.  The friends and clients he made there were nothing like country folk, a little edgy, operators, worldly international people.  His adult children came to visit, which imprinted them with urban California.  He bought a place in Tahoe.There were deaths.  The orderly and meticulous patriarch dropped dead in his tracks at age 57.  Economic realignment was necessary, as well as emotional relationships and lines of authority.  The son of the fisherman, who had bonded to the son of the hunting man, left for the city but did not go into the automobile industry.  Instead he moved into a ranch-style three-bedroom house at the growing edge of the city and got a job as a janitor and maintenance man at the city’s coal-fired power plant, settling into some deeply unhappy years, full of frustration and rage, vulnerable to the genetic triggers for alcoholism that had killed his brother.  He was excellent at his job.The boy was se[...]



His first adult job was with Headstart, that progressive, effective, idealistic attempt to bring all children into a living culture that valued them.  Since he was in Michigan, many of the children were “Anishinaabe (or Anishinabe, plural: Anishinaabeg) is the autonym for a group of culturally related Indigenous Peoples in Canada and the United States that include the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, Mississaugas, Chippewa, and Algonquin peoples.”  They occupied a social niche that was sometimes rez-centered and sometimes not.  If white people thought of them at all, most folks vaguely considered them “French.”  Michigan was one of the succession of frontiers in America and since the white people quickly exhausted the valuable timber but left forest and waterways behind, the original people were not exterminated as they were on the prairies, but learned to be shadowy and useful, moving in and out as needed, just “there.”  So his early friends and adult lovers (he was innocently gay) often came from that nearly-hidden reservoir of survivor life.It was right after World War II and the Interstate Highway System was just being created.  Tom Lewis, in his book “Divided Highways”, says “The highways became a stage on which we have played out a great drama of contradictions that accounts for so much of the history of the century.  On this stage we see all our fantasies and fears, our social ideals and racial divisions.”  The TV series “Route 66” was an enduring account of the river of life.  The work of Jack Kerouac guided young men.This giant construction project consumed gravel, leaving gravel pits across the landscape.  Just as the quarries of New England became swimming holes, the scenes of sex and death, so the gravel pits filled with water that attracted young people into a night time moonscape of adventure and escape.  The other reciprocal phenomenon was the auto industry in the cities, assembly lines turning out those vehicles that would leave rubber and fumes all across the continent, ways to hit the road and portable bedrooms to park on lovers’ lanes.Social consequences of this aspect of the industrial revolution were profound.  Escape was easy, long-distances called, family or a criminal rap sheet were easy to escape.  Car dealers -- from the humble empty lot, flying pennants and promising bargain cars that would actually run -- were at one end of a spectrum while high end symbols of luxury, especially from Europe which veterans thought they knew and respected, were even more important than the big houses that used to signal the status of country people.The young and the defiant, no longer on horseback, took to motorcycles, so now “Easy Rider” was the archetype, and driving directly into the wind and darkness was an irresistible trope .  Like their fathers’ respect for German engineering and big powerful engines, the motorcycles graded out into layers of status.  Those who could maintain them, skillfully ride them, smash the quiet and order of rural America, were the new desperadoes.  The new shootists wore black leather, combat gear, partly for protection and partly as symbolism, harking back to wartime.  It was so hard to give up wartime.Meanwhile, back at the farms along the rivers where the roads weren’t paved, much less engineered, the men discovered that by commuting to work in the big city automobile industries, they could make money that by-passed driving tractors or even McCormick reapers.  Leaving the uneducated and the “French” to do the ag work, the men double-timed their l[...]



Terran Kipp Last Gun (Piikani Nation) is a visual artist from Browning, Montana working in printmaking, photography, and sculpture. Last Gun's work often explores and reimagines place, memory, and cultural narratives. His work is deeply rooted in landscapes, especially of his home territory-where the plains greet the sun to the east and meet the jagged Rockies (Backbone of the World) to the west. This landscape has provided shelter, food, and inspiration for the Piikani people for thousands of years -- Last Gun's appreciation for this can be seen throughout his work. He continues to add to the millennia old conversation of Piikani visual aesthetics and philosophy. Last Gun draws his inspiration from a variety of sources such as Pop Art, Minimalism, Colorfield, and Geometric Abstraction. He graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in 2016 with a BFA in museum studies and a AFA in studio arts focusing on printmaking and photography.Major awards include the 2016 Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Goodman Aspiring Artist Fellowship, as well as being selected as the 2016 AHA Progressive Arts Festival Guest Curator. Last Gun is currently based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. [...]



As a toddler Bill McMullen was sitting next to his grandmother in their wagon when the team of horses began a runaway and jerked the reins out of his grandmother’s hands.  Acting quickly, she rolled the boy up in a blanket so his arms would stay at his sides, and dropped him over the front of the wagon, so that it would pass above him but no wheel would crush his limbs.  As the team broke free and the wagon came apart, she jumped to safety.  This story is the way I choose to interpret events a year or so ago when Tim Barrus threw me under the bus at the end of a decade-long relationship writing together.  Sometimes “under the bus” is the safest place to be.  Our culture is on a runaway, a juggernaut that destroys the vulnerable.  It used to be that Tim Barrus was called a hoax, but what can that mean when the US presidency, college educations, and governmental safety nets for American citizens have all turned out to be cruel hoaxes.  Cinematheque and the Smash Street Boys have jumped into the darkness.  Their HIV clinic is attended by armed guards looking for illegal immigrants.  The pain meds are ruled illegal.  Other funding has disappeared.  I haven’t had contact for a long time.  Now that I’m under the bus, I can talk about some things.              In the meantime a new book has been added to the hoax literature, “Bunk:  The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News,” by Kevin Young.  Quoting the above review:  "'Bunk' is a brief against what Young calls 'cultural Alzheimer's': we quickly erase hoaxes once exposed, excising the monstrous palimpsest, because as with any witch hunt or obvious fake, afterward we can't quite explain why we ever believed the outrageous thing in the first place.  The resulting de-hoaxing leads to outrage.  For the hoax reminds us, uncomfortably, that the stories we tell don't just express the society of the self, they construct it."Lethem’s  review is as enthusiastic about Young as the NYTimes review of “The Blood Runs Like a River Through my Dreams” by “Nasdijj,” the nom de plume used by Tim Barrus when he sold a short story to Esquire magazine, using first person to tell a story about a Navajo father and son and claiming the fictional man's name for himself.A publisher/scout who specialized in controversy and racial provocation; who had engaged Alice Randall, the revisionist African-American author of “The Wind Done Gone”, and been hauled into court over it; who was the agent of Sherman Alexie in his young and reckless days, spotted the Barrus short story and believed it could be expanded into a book.  What this developer didn’t know was that Barrus was white, flat on his back in a Florida hospital, barely alive and facing a lifetime of racking pain from avascular necrosis (bone death) triggered by the meds necessary to keep him breathing during a bout of pneumonia that would recur again and again because that’s one consequence of HIV.  Barrus needed a double hip replacement and he was offered enough money — in those days as an advance — to pay for them.  Otherwise, he would be in a wheelchair for life.Newly realizing what HIV meant in those days, not quite past the holocaust stage, he was in a special program for HIV patients when the editor caught up with him.  Barrus was in no shape to be writing a book.  Luckily, he had always wri[...]



After eight months of unemployment in Portland, sleeping on a rollaway on my mother’s sun porch, I finally landed a civil service job with the City of Portland.  The PERS retirement from that six years I spent in the job (clerical specialist, they called it) are a significant part of my income now.  But it was an introduction to how tangled government “professionals” can be.  I was only hired because there were few applicants and the woman who made the decision regretted it almost right away.  She said she had “felt sorry for me.”  (It was shortly after being divorced and leaving Montana.)The head of the whole Bureau liked me.  In fact, she loaned me some books I had never run across:  “Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin.  I thought it was because of the “city” reference.  They were good books, full of cheer and jokes and true emotions among a particular sort of San Francisco person.  I was only vaguely aware that this was about gay people, pre-HIV.  I thanked her and returned her books.  I didn’t realize that she was testing to see whether I were gay.  The rumour was that she herself was gay with a very handsome gay husband and some adopted children.  Deniably closeted.I was reminded of this tonight because an interview with Armistead Maupin popped up on YouTube.  I was a little surprised that Maupin is a jolly old grandpa now, though he’s only a little younger than I am.  He was being interviewed by a young gay actor and I enjoyed it, not least because that context of gay actors is one I know a little bit since my undergrad degree was in theatre and many of my classmates were gay.  The occasion of the interview was Maupin’s memoir.I’m not gay/lesbian.  I’m just “Western,” which is to say I don’t do the “femme” thing.  I can dress up and even enjoy it once in a long while, but to sit here and type all day, sweats and work shirts are practical.  Valier had to think about it, but they finally decided I was a “character” and therefore not subject to the rules of the town.  (Except for the height of my grass.)  Actually, it troubles them more that I’m an “intellectual” because they don’t like being put down and they think I might be doing that.  Another angle is that “cowboy” and “ranch” culture has been made into a marker for wealth and ostentation, but “farmer” is a kind of downscale category unless you’re Senator Jon Tester.  Ranch women are supposed to be glamorous, maybe even have manicures, but farm women might wear bib overalls and practical boots that lace up.  Or Crocs.  They might not watch their weight.  This theory was made explicit in an interview with that carefully observant writer, Thomas McGuane.Listening to these two gay men, Maupin and Jonathan Groff, banter and joke is a good corrective to the rank-smelling and self-contradictory exchanges going on about a different kind of book, “Fire and Fury.”  An astounding thing has become apparent:  our country is not governed by laws so much as “norms” and conventions.  Gentlemen’s agreements that cannot be enforced.  They depend upon the larger culture to have instilled the social rules in these people, but evidently no one did.  The struggle with Trump — a known vulgarian and fake — has revealed that the whole system is infected with apologists, fraidy cats, and people on the take.Yet these tw[...]



“Attachment theory” is an often useful idea about why some people fall in love and never leave that faithfulness, why some are soon restless and break off, and why some never attach to anyone else at all.  As soon as someone has an idea like this theory, people pounce on it — whether they are professional counselors or not and whether they are using the idea in their own interest or not.  I’m relying on the material in Wikipedia for this discussion, specifically the article called “attachment measures” which is about “instruments” to try to achieve some kind of objectivity about what is going on, though the phenomenon itself is quite observable and logical.  Infants, even birds, must attach to parents in order to survive.  The style they learn from the interaction of their personal physiology/temperament with the situation is one that will persist through life, not least because it becomes biologically wired into their brain domains at a primal level.  It becomes the style of romantic relationships, the style of relationship with institutions, and in religions with a focus on a god or on ancestors, their “faith.”  Normally, one’s attachment style is below consciousness.One system organizes the types of attachment as secure, anxious-ambivalent, anxious-avoidant, and disorganized/controlling.  Each of these types has sub-categories with more detail or maybe as “fall-back” strategies.  There are other systems:  one uses only two dimensions: anxiety about the relationship and avoidance in the relationship.  A third uses four categories, but they are named as secure, preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful avoidant.  The wiki entry doesn’t discuss how much the circumstances of the times (The Great Depression, World War) acting on the ability and way of the care-giver or schools can shape a whole generation of children into people who will have a different kind of care-giving that will shape the next subsequent generation.Strategies and tests described in this entry are mostly meant for young children and amount to devising situations and then recording the reactions.  This is a common psych strategy but the range of cleverness and reliability of the results, let alone the sensitivity and empathy of the interpreter, make all the difference.  For adults, there is the dimension of acceptance and insight by the person being tested — which is a direct result of the person’s attachment style!  One test, by Smyke and Zeanah, is given to the caregivers.  Called Disturbances of Attachment Interview, it became important when dealing with “warehoused” children who failed to form any attachment.  Such investigations are also vital in a time when many children have a sequence of caregivers, either because of fostering, adoption or simply because the parents are gone to work or are sociologically separated, as in the historical British system of delegating childcare to nannies.The 12 items on this test include:Having a discriminated, preferred adultSeeking comfort when distressedResponding to comfort when offeredSocial and emotional reciprocityEmotional regulationChecking back after venturing away from the care giverReticence with unfamiliar adultsWillingness to go off with relative strangersSelf-endangering behaviorExcessive clingingVigilance/hypercomplianceRole ReversalIf a person were needing a kernel dynamic for a story, they might begin with one of the four categories devised by Bartholomew and Horowitz.&n[...]



On the high prairie we’ve just gone from double-digit subzero weather with snow to more than forty degrees and seeping water everywhere.  The cats, feral and domestic, have discovered that they can get into the hayloft of the back shop, walk on the rafters and emerge through the rotted hole in the roof onto their own private balcony.  They are spending hours at a time up there, just sitting and watching.I’m feeling about the same — like sitting and watching — while I try to figure out where ought to go in 2018 — what the options are, what the consequences might be.  Not unlike all the various committees working on the nation’s future, but with much less at stake.  After all, I could just stop blogging and no one would mind.  I mean, I get a lot of hits, but I don’t know who those people around the planet are or why they’re reading.  If I subscribed to services that analyze data, I could find out, but I sort of like the mystery.Increasingly on Twitter I’ve been picking up readers from Canadian First Nations people.  I was already following a few Piikuni thinkers.  But I’m only useful as someone who remembers the Sixties, which means (often) their parents and grandparents.  I only want to finish digesting the Blackfeet materials I have, not to become part of the action.My genetic family prefers Facebook, only one cousin tweets, but I’m still convinced that FB is an evil platform, so I avoid it.  I don’t want to be part of any community or on-going conversation with a few exceptions, like my niece and her family.In terms of “following,” I monitor websites about medicine, paleoanthropology, a few of the broader literary newsletters, Portland and Montana politics, on through the less mainstream news outlets (VICE, Ozy, The Guardian) and of course, Rachel Maddow.  (She’s getting scared.  So am I.)  It’s getting less and less possible for me to navigate the Internet whether or not the big platforms grab hold.  After all, is blocking whatever they don’t like and just ignores that because it only confuses them.  Paywalls aren’t worth climbing, no matter how prestigious the newspaper or magazine that imposes one.  By the time anything gets into print, it’s barely worth knowing.  Often the most useful news shows up in small venues, not because of the reporters but because the editors are stranglers, old white men who cannot see past their desks.The most pressing need is not so much getting rid of Trump as what happens afterwards.  Like the many countries we have withdrawn from after defeating tyrants, ours is likely to be a shambles for a while whether the many indictments and trials go forward or not.  (Have no doubt — they WILL.)  For one thing, the whole world is wanting to reconfigure, not just the US.  There needs to be major thought about boundaries, secrecy, wealth, housing, law enforcement, molecular substances that create craving, ethnic identities, and the dynamics of ecologies that keep them from collapsing.  It will take courage.  So many people tell me on every level, beginning in this town, that figuring all this out is just too hard, too scary, too much of a mess.  They just want to be left alone to do their own stuff, which is what people think just before the tsunami, or blizzard, or volcano, or forest fire, or earthquake, or pandemic swept over them.  (On the e[...]



Sooner or later Trump is going to realize — in his movie-driven mind — that “Indians” cost a lot of money.  Therefore, he will close the reservations and deny any special advantages due to enrolment.  The corporation model that has been the organizational principle of tribal resource management — the fruits of the land going to the people of that land — is suited to this modern way of thinking about life:  money, money and money.  With a board of directors (tribal council) in charge and shareholder profits ensuing.  (The Christmas payout for the Piegan/Piikuni this year was $75.)  At least the part of the Trump voter constituency that is convinced someone else is getting their money will be gratified.And yet if rezzes were foreclosed, more economies will be devastated, diminishing both tax income and safety, both care for the needy and support for the many start-ups and cooperations on the rez.  Much tribal money is held “in trust” by the US government.  Eloise Cobell forced an accounting and recompense for all the trust money that was diverted to national uses instead of properly recorded and distributed to the People.  The next step might be to take all that money OUT of trust and put it in the hands of the tribes one way or another.Nations are functions of territory and infrastructure.  If both are gone, taking with them the flow of food and fuel, there will be revolution.  That’s not a threat but an inevitability.  If one tribe takes its reservation into secession, the army will be sent in to restore order.  If ALL tribes secede at once, the resistance will be insuppressible.  Unless Russia cooperates by sending the smallpox seed they’ve saved.  This time the white people are not immunized.This is a war cry of a post, meant to make stark what is happening around the world when governments get pot-bound and international corporations are stronger than nations (strong enough to ignore the Rule of Law).  A smart phone in every pocket is clearly different from a transistor radio — though it was bad enough when authority was challenged by rock and roll.  The youngsters are talking about sovereignty.  And they’re talking to each other.Some of them are lawyers, many have fought in the Sand Wars, and not enough of them are seasoned politicians except locally.  In previous years it has been argued that the BIA is the only check on tribal corruption but now the corruption is so bad in so many places that many would say there is NO check on corruption anywhere in any of the United States or even United Nations.  First they sell off the national monuments to line their own pockets, then they come for the rez, which was assigned because the politicians thought they were wastelands with no value.  Things have unfolded differently.  At one time “Indians” were mocked for being drunks; now it’s white people who are addicts.  Once it was enrolled children who were taken into foster care, but now the system is flooded with the unwanted children of drug users.  If only heroin would make people sterile.When I try to tell my friends and relatives what indigenous people are really like (they are all different from each other and a lot of them are indistinguishable from “white” people) everybody gets mad.  There are several schools of thought.  One is the slavering monster point of view, which slides around a lot to [...]

BREAKDANCES WITH WOLVES: Indigenous Pirate Radio

2018-01-01T12:15:06.995-07:00 is not going to be for everyone.  It's "about" where I am next to the Blackfeet rez but it broadcasts from Seattle.  I listened to #56 which is memories of Christmas.  I hadn't known about this program until this morning. Breakdances With Wolves is Gyasi Ross, Wesley ("Snipes Type") Roach and Minty LongEarth, a few Natives with opinions and a platform.  It begins with an incoherent scramble of excited folks and then smooths out into moments of serious insight.If you want to know what a Blackfeet/NW Indian combination looks like, here you go, both country version and city version.  He's a lawyer, writer, activist:  I won't hedge around.  These guys and gals are gay.  Some of them are partly black.  Most seem to be a mix of tribes.My New Year's concept is going to be more up front.  I am not "Indian," I am not gay, I am more practical than political but neither naive nor defenseless in an explosive world.  [...]



Mary Strachan, Browning, MT, 1962  Today is the last of the bitterly profound cold of this Arctic Vortex.  The records show something equal in the Sixties.  I was here, but I was young then, and madly in love, working as hard as I could, singing.  This time I could only hope I wouldn’t need an ambulance, that the gas would stay on, that the cats in the garage wouldn’t freeze to death.  (They could barely eat their catfood before it froze too hard for teeth.)The shells of old poorly insulated houses like this one creak and sag.  I can’t plug in two electric heaters at once without blowing a breaker.  The pickup is useless but roads are risky and maybe there’s no mail anyway.  The UPS man, bringing another case of mail order cat food, is normally in a tearing hurry — taps on the back door and hotfoots back to his truck.  This time he knocked hard and lingered, chatted for a few moments.  It wasn’t until later that I realized he was making a welfare check, since I haven’t been to the post office for a week.  They probably asked about me.  Daily he leaves off some packages there, I presume because they are addresses too remote to visit.Once my brains are emptied by the day’s writing, I watch vids via the computer.  Netflix is all explosions and sex while PBS has sunk into royal sentimentality.  So I’ve gone to YouTube in spite of many of their films being blurry and muffled.  It’s hypocrisy to criticize PBS when the BBC films I seek out are the source of their trademark shows, meant to be high class.  But I like the very early roles of the Brit repertory actors who now show up as grizzled old battlers in fantasies.  Even the women have been allowed to age over the decades.Yesterday I struck gold with “Cider with Rosie”.  It was the perfect film for a very cold turn of the year because it is a celebration of Laurie Lee’s childhood in country England, specifically Slad, Gloucestershire.  The book came out in 1959 when I was in college, but I have the unreasonable feeling that I read it in grade school when I was his age.  There have been several film reiterations, one in 2015, but I was watching the one made in 1998.  It preserves the gloriously poetic writing in the author’s own voice by using him as a narrator.  His purpose is to make memorable the last of the agricultural rural life, and he succeeds.  To me, this has far more meaning than the Big House gentry of “Downton Abbey.”The turn from agriculture to industrial factories is still very recent — Laurie Lee was the same age as as Bob Scriver.  My parents grew up in circumstances less embroidered than the scenes in this film, but not that different.  Their lives were on the cusp of the shift from rural to industrial, propelled by war.  In fact, Browning and Valier still cling to some of the old ways while wishing for the amenities of the industrial revolution which are now beginning to shrink.  Infrastructure is failing.  Railroads are a good example, and even the search for oil and other minerals is changing. Of course, here on the high prairie there is an underlying way of life that goes back millennia, the hunter-gatherer tribes we had better remember in case it becomes the only means of survival again.  This time wi[...]



“But the dramatic changes in elite spending are driven by a well-to-do, educated elite, or what I call the ‘aspirational class’. This new elite cements its status through prizing knowledge and building cultural capital, not to mention the spending habits that go with it – preferring to spend on services, education and human-capital investments over purely material goods. These new status behaviours are what I call ‘inconspicuous consumption’. None of the consumer choices that the term covers are inherently obvious or ostensibly material but they are, without question, exclusionary.” some people are writing in order to change the world.  Others are writing because it fits the movie-generated idea that the most vital “story” possible is to have talent, develop it in some mysterious way (suffering?), and finally be published.  If the two purposes are conflated, then this is the most admirable of lives and might possibly lead to the birth of a new religion.  It’s always a little blurry how this happens, partly because it doesn’t depend upon the skills and vision of any one individual and partly because when one is inside the kind of social movement that creates this uplifting power, it’s not really possible to see it, much less manage it.  Or finance it. instance, “education” is meant to be the key to the world for the “aspirational class  “Elizabeth Currid-Halkett’s research focuses on the arts and culture and most recently, the American consumer economy.  Election 2016; urban policy and planning; cultural industries (art, fashion, music); Los Angeles and New York City as cultural hubs; economic development of cities; social networks, nightlife, innovation; economic impact of creative industries; the making of celebrity.”  Pretty slick.  Hanging with the hoity-toity while keeping one’s identity as an academic instead of a parasite.  Though there are some people who think academics ARE parasites.I got a comeuppance this holiday season: coal in my stocking.  My old friend had taken a different, far more conventional road, one that didn’t include college.  She regrets this, I think, seeing a degree as an entitlement or certification of virtue.  This is far from how I see it, but I’ve tried to stay “modern” and part of that is understanding that education is always arbitrary and too often made into a commodity to be sold.  The academies are quite frank, accepting rankings by magazines and calculating what one’s earning power might be if in possession of their degrees.  The corresponding dark side of that is “fake universities” where one receives an empty “education”.  People sue; the government intervenes.  Trump University is no more.What is education?  Commonly now, people don’t talk about being “educated” but being “schooled.”  Educated seems to be something happening in academia.  Schooled is something that life and other people do to you, setting limits and requiring skills.  My friend is schooled by her family, her chur[...]